Pope Francis has concluded his meetings with Indigenous delegates in the Vatican to learn more about the legacy of Canada’s residential school system and to apologize for abuses that occurred there.
The Holy Father said that listening to the experiences of three groups of Indigenous delegates has:
Made me feel two things very strongly: indignation and shame. Indignation, because it is not right to accept evil and, even worse, to grow accustomed to evil, as if it were an inevitable part of the historical process. No! Without real indignation, without historical memory and without a commitment to learning from past mistakes, problems remain unresolved and keep coming back. We can see this these days in the case of war. The memory of the past must never be sacrificed at the altar of alleged progress.
I also feel shame. I have said this to you and now I say it again. I feel shame – sorrow and shame – for the role that a number of Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that wounded you, in the abuses you suffered and in the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values. All these things are contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For the deplorable conduct of those members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon. Clearly, the content of the faith cannot be transmitted in a way contrary to the faith itself: Jesus taught us to welcome, love, serve and not judge; it is a frightening thing when, precisely in the name of the faith, counter-witness is rendered to the Gospel.
You can watch the entire papal apology here:
If you want to learn more about what transpired during the delegation to Rome, Salt+Light has created a helpful resource page that includes daily recap videos.
The papal apology adds to the apology from the Catholic bishops in Canada, which was made in September 2021. Pope Francis has agreed to come to Canada to continue the healing and reconciliation process with Indigenous peoples. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Vatican secretary of state have committed to making residential school documents available to survivors. And the bishops of Canada have agreed to a $30 million financial commitment to support healing and reconciliation projects, which adds to the more than $57 million already fulfilled by Catholic entities through the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.
To learn more about residential schools and the Catholic Church, please visit our healing and reconciliation page.